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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 January 2006, 11:32 GMT
University 'segregation' warning
Leading universities remain "disproportionately"
Top universities must make greater efforts to recruit more ethnic minority students, warns Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality.

"We need to stop pretending that segregation isn't happening," says Mr Phillips.

Writing in the Guardian, Mr Phillips challenged leading universities to examine why they were so likely to be "disproportionately white".

But he warned that efforts must not be "happy-clappy tokenism".

Mr Phillips was responding to reports that students from ethnic minorities were much more likely to be concentrated in the new universities rather than the most prestigious institutions.


This showed that individual new universities could have more non-white students than all the Russell Group universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial, put together.

Trevor Phillips
If we do not act now, our universities could add a lethal, irreversible twist to racial separation in Britain
Trevor Phillips, CRE chair

"Segregation isn't always the result of voluntary choices by students. But what is beyond doubt is that segregation is taking place. Its consequences are far-reaching for individuals and deadly for community relations," writes Mr Phillips.

Apart from the failure of ethnic minority students to get places at the leading universities - he also pointed to the racial "stereotyping" in individual courses, such as non-white students avoiding courses such as agriculture.

Even where Russell Group universities have higher proportions of non-white students, Mr Phillips says that this can mask the under-representation of specific racial groups - such as institutions where "non-white" students are overwhelmingly likely to be Asian rather than Afro-Caribbean.

Mr Phillips says that the problem can begin long before university - such as the underachievement of black students at school.

But he says that this does not let universities "off the hook" - and that they need to make greater efforts to make themselves accessible to a more diverse range of students.

Such efforts should not be about quotas, he says, and warns that policies such as trying to increase the proportion of state-school students at university could be counter-productive for non-white applicants.

As an example, he says this can hamper applications from talented black students attending church and independent schools.

"Above all, we need to stop pretending that segregation isn't happening, or else that it is just a passing phase," he writes.

"Just as school choice is slowly separating minority communities from each other and from whites, if we do not act now, our universities could add a lethal, irreversible twist to racial separation in Britain."

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